Karen Gillan has father issues.
More specifically, her Marvel Cinematic Universe character Nebula, has father issues. The cyborg killer-turned-reluctant-hero, who has appeared in both “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, is the adopted daughter of Thanos (played by Josh Brolin), the big villain of the new blockbuster “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“In this ‘Avengers’ movie, Thanos is the big, bad guy; he’s the ultimate Marvel supervillain and he also happens to be Nebula’s father,” Gillan explains. “So she has a clear agenda — I mean, she already had a clear agenda, which was to hunt him down and kill him to get revenge for her upbringing. She’s got the serious daddy issues going on. And then in this movie, I think, everybody shares the same agenda. However, Nebula has this emotional investment in it that sort of separates her a little bit for the other characters.”
amNewYork spoke with the 30-year-old Scottish actress — who calls Greenwich Village home — about the film as well as her directorial debut, “The Party’s Just Beginning,” which recently played at the Tribeca Film Festival.
How is Josh Brolin as a father figure for you?
He is one of the most incredible actors I’ve ever witnessed working in my life, which means that he is extremely unsettling in the role, unnerving and he plays the most sinister father, ever.
Let’s talk about the makeup. What was your daily schedule like?
So usually I get there maybe around 3 or 4 in the morning. And then I’ll do about four hours of getting ready and that includes, like, pasting down all of my hair, putting a bald cap on and then putting all the prosthetics on and then getting into the costume. So it takes about four hours and then we start shooting for the day. It’s a pretty intense morning, but it’s just part of my ritual for the character now. I’ve done it so many times.
This movie basically stars every actor in Hollywood. Was there anyone you were really excited to meet?
I was really excited to see Robert Downey Jr. I just grew up watching him in movies and being so inspired by his acting. And Mark Ruffalo, too. So to get to kind of catch a glimpse behind the scenes and see what their process is, as actors, I think I was sort of just being a huge acting nerd about it all.
You have made your feature film directorial debut. How was that experience?
It’s a film called “The Party’s Just Beginning.” It’s a film I wrote and directed. And I also am acting in it. It’s about a girl dealing with the suicide of her best friend in the Highlands, Scotland. And it’s set where I’m from, in Inverness. Yeah, it’s my directorial debut. So I’m really excited for people to watch it.
Has this experience changed you as an actor?
It’s a couple of things: One, I think it’s created a bit more of shorthand between me and whichever director I’m working with. Because I can sort of see what they’re angling for a bit more. Like, I can understand it from their point of view. . . . Also it’s reinforced the few theories that I already had about acting and it just kind of confirmed them for me. Like I always like to mix it up every take and try something different and then when they get into the edit they have choices and options to choose from. And that was something I found really valuable when I came to the editing part of the directing process.
When you’re feeling nostalgic for Scotland, is there a place that reminds you of home?
No, not yet. Somebody had told me there’s this Scotland community in Brooklyn — that, I’m thinking about checking out.
What do you do in your down time?
What do I do? This is where I come across as a really boring person. Whenever I’m not acting, I’m watching other people acting. I love it so much. So I am in the theater all the time or at the movies, or writing at home, or just walking around drinking coffee. Sometimes I go to jazz clubs and I’ll drink some wine. So that’s a bit more fun.
Have you considered doing anything on the stage here?
You know, that’s something that I thought about. I really am enjoying concentrating on acting and film and also directing film. But one day I would like to get back on the stage, because I have done theater before in London and I would love to definitely return to that at some point.
Do you think you might swing toward directing more?
I love acting. That’s what I started off doing. I just don’t see a world in which I don’t act anymore. But I really did enjoy directing so much. And it’s definitely something that I want to do more of. And I have tons of ideas, so I’m hoping I get to put them in action.
What other projects do you have coming up?
So right now I’m reading a lot of scripts to consider directing, which is really exciting to me. I never thought I’d be in this position this quickly . . . going to jump into a world of sequels. Probably the next “Guardians” film and another “Jumanji” film.
You became famous for your role in “Doctor Who.” Are you excited for Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor?
I am so happy that it’s finally happened. Because for so many years people have been speculating: is it going to be a woman this time? And there are so many people who are questioning whether a woman could play the role, which is so absurd to me because of course a woman can. And we’re about to see a woman do it. She has made her first appearance already and she’s already brilliant just with a couple of lines. I’m just so happy — we’re all going to witness her prove all the skeptics wrong.